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The Summer List: Professional Development MOOC Opportunities


With summer almost upon us, it’s that delicious time of year when many people prepare their summer reading list, selecting books that will motivate their personal and professional development. Now with the advent of MOOCs, massive open online courses, we have yet another enriching source to learn from. This summer someone wishing to hone existing skills or to learn something new has countless MOOCs available for free to choose from.

Professional development MOOC this summer

Johan Larsson via Flickr

To help you out, we’ve compiled a roster of several excellent courses available for  professional and personal growth. Though we don’t suggest we’ve found all the free online classes that will help with your professional development, the list below is a good place to start.

What is professional development?

“If It Is to be, It’s Up to Me”

Before we go further, let’s clarify what professional development is. Wikipedia defines it this way: “[Professional development] refers to skills and knowledge attained for both personal development and career advancement. Professional development encompasses all types of facilitated learning opportunities, ranging from college degrees to formal coursework, conferences and informal learning opportunities.

Another key feature of professional development is that it is personalized. The one-size-fits all approach may be relevant for some types of learning, however effective professional development needs to be relevant and applicable to the individual. There is no prescribed plan that can be outlined by one’s employer; the onus is on the individual to develop his or her own path for learning and development. Professional development is about self-reliance, making one’s own way in the world by seeking out learning and knowledge to fit one’s own needs and goals. Hence the quote above that encapsulates this concept,  “If It Is to Be, It’s Up to Me“,  which is the title of a book by Thomas B. Smith.

MOOCs for professional development by category

The majority of the 19 20 MOOCs listed below begin in June or July and last four to six weeks; ideal for summer learning. Some are ongoing, where learners can begin at any time. In most cases you can join the class and follow along — or even try to catch up with the work — anytime after it starts, so don’t let the June 1 start date on some of these dissuade you.

Some of these MOOCs are on platforms like Coursera and Udacity that you may know about. Others are part of less-well-known networks such as Canvas and WizIQ or even from providers outside the U.S. And a few are hidden gems, offered independently from outside a major network. A few of the courses listed here are cMOOCs, which are quite different learning experiences from xMOOCs, as I explained in a previous article.


Business skills

  • Introduction to Business Communication, Canvas Network,  begins July 1, 2013. This course focuses on the basics of business writing, starting with the fundamentals and understanding your audience.
  • Introduction to Management, The University of Oklahoma, begins June 10, 2013. This course features the tales of Atlas Black as he works to fund his college expenses, start a new business and act as a fledgling entrepreneur, along the way illustrating key concepts from principles of management. This one has a for-credit option for University of Oklahoma students.
  • Introduction to Business in Asia,, begins July 1, 2013. This Australian MOOC will give you some beginning ideas on how to understand and negotiate business in Asia. The emphasis is on the social and cultural aspects of business, such as leadership, management and personal relationships.
  • Introduction to Public Speaking, Coursera, begins June 24, 2013. This class focuses on understanding the key parts of an argument and on drafting clear and concise arguments, which applies directly to other academic assignments.
  • Accounting Principles I,, ongoing. Saylor’s self-paced classes may not fit the common definition of a MOOC, as this site has discussed before, but their free online classes are worth a look. This accounting course will provide you with a solid understanding of basic principles and will introduce you to financial statement analysis.

Professional development for educators

  • Education in a Changing World,, begins July 1, 2013.  Explore education as a social institution that’s shaped by and part of shaping a constantly changing world.
  • Game Based Learning, (cMOOC). begins June 3, 2013. “Prepare to be immersed,” say the course designers. “We’ll be exploring multi-player games, MMORPGs, sandbox genre games and virtual worlds.”
  • Hybrid Courses: Best of Both Worlds, Canvas Network, begins June 16, 2013. This one is from MOOC News and Reviews contributor Liz Falconer. It will explores methods to effectively teach hybrid classes and build a class community that engages students and supports active learning in any subject area.
  • Game Elements for Learning, Canvas Network,  begins July 1, 2013. In this professional development MOOC, you will learn how to utilize common game elements like points, quests, avatars, levels and social graphs to engage online students.
  • Moodle MOOC on WizIQ, (cMOOC with WizIQ), begins June 1, 2013. Teaching with Moodle is a four-week course for anyone interested in teaching online using the Moodle learning management system (LMS) and other web technologies.

Specifically for K-12 educators

  • Creating and Teaching a Pathways Math Course, Canvas Network, begins June 2, 2013. During this four week course, instructors will learn how to create and teach a new type of developmental math course known as a pathways course.
  • Art and Inquiry: Museum Teaching Strategies for your Classroom, Coursera, July 29, 2013. Intended for teachers (grades 4-12) from all disciplines, this MOOC, offered by the educational programming staff of the Museum of Modern Art, will introduce ways to integrate art into classrooms by using inquiry-based teaching methods commonly used in museum settings.
  • First Year Teaching (Elementary Grades) – Success from the Start, Coursera, August 6, 2013. This course will provide high leverage strategies, resources and support for professional growth so that you can provide students with the engaging, safe environment essential for student learning

Technological skill development

  • HTML Coding and CSS for Beginners,, ongoing. This programming class provides students with an introduction to the core technologies used to communicate information on the Web: Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).
  • Web Development, Udacity, ongoing. Taught by Steve Huffman, co-founder of Reddit, this programming MOOC walks you through everything you need to know to build your own blog application and scale it to support large numbers of users.
  • Creative Programming for Digital Media & Mobile Apps, Coursera, begins June 10, 2013. This course will teach you how to develop and apply programming skills to creative work. This is an important skill within the development of creative mobile applications, digital music and video games.
  • Introduction to Computer Science. Udacity, ongoing. In this course you will learn key concepts in computer science and learn how to write your own computer programs in the context of building a web crawler.
  • Introduction to Web Technologies. openHPI, begins June 3, 2013. Don’t forget the many MOOCs conducted in languages other than English. The Hasso Plattner Institut, a German computer science institute, has MOOCs in both English and German. Then current one, in German, is about the underlying technologies — URI, HTTP, HTML, CSS and XML — that make the web work, finishing up with a look at how cloud computing is changing web-based functionality.
  • Web Fundamentals, Codecademy, ongoing. In this course, you will learn the building blocks of HTML and CSS in order to create and style your first web page from scratch.

Career building skills

  • Job Search Skills,, ongoing. In the Job Search Skills Program, you will begin by learning the basics of the job search process, including how to match your qualifications, experience and training to the needs of today’s employers


What other professional development MOOCs should we cover?

This list, as we mentioned, is by no means comprehensive, but it certainly will get you started. You have hundreds of MOOCs to choose from that can satisfy just about any area of interest. Let us know in the comments section what professions you’d like us to identify more professional development MOOCs for.

If you need further inspiration, click on the “reviews” tab on our site where you will find students providing first-hand details about MOOCs on a variety of platforms. Enjoy!

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Debbie Morrison (6 Posts)

Debbie Morrison is an instructional designer and educator with over ten years of experience in creating meaningful, rich learning outcomes in higher education, K-12 and business settings. She collaborates with organizations to develop effective online programs, and is the learning mentor for the online department at four-year university, and most recently the Lead Curriculum Developer, Online Programs. She writes and blogs about online education and MOOC learning experiences. Debbie holds a Master's Degree in Education and Human Development, with a focus on educational technology.